On a cold Melbourne night the Victorian Hindu community celebrated Raksha Bandhan festival with representatives from community organisations including various levels of government, enjoyed an evening of reflection, networking, and recognition of inspiring women, cultural celebration and a warming vegetarian banquet.
The HOTA Forum Victoria’s Raksha Bandhan 2017 was held on Saturday 19th August at the Cultural Centre of the Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple in Caurrum Downs. Hosted this year by IAEF (India Australia Exchange Forum), with HOTA Forum custodians – Vishva Hindu Parishad of Australia – Victorian Chapter. The intent was to create a successful event to meet the aims of the HOTA forum in celebrating the values of Raksha Bandhan.
HOTA (Hindu Organisations Temples and Associations) Victoria forum was formed in 2015 at the 4th Australian national Hindu conference held in Melbourne. The main focus of the forum is to facilitate effective networking, communication, collaboration and empowerment of Hindu organisations.
The evening formally commenced with prayers by JET Australia’s Pragna school children and Deepa Prajawalan (lamp lighting) by women representatives of Hindu organisations. Following that, a tribute to Sri Pandit Abhay Awasthi Ji of Hindu Foundation was offered, who passed away recently.
Smt Geeta Devi, Chair of HOTA forum Victoria delivered the welcome address, focussing on the strengths of the Hindu community. HOTA forum Victoria secretary Shri Nagabhushana Sharma Betanabhatla reported on the achievements of the forum over the last 12 months and highlighted that there is still much to be done amongst and between the partner organisations. Shri Shivesh Pandey of IAEF introduced the HOTA forum partner and supporting organisations and acknowledged their support.
Special guests for the evening included – Ms Inga Pullich MLC – member for Eastern Metropolitan region, shadow minister for scrutiny of Govt and Multicultural Affairs, Consul General of India Melbourne – Ms Manika Jain, VMC Commissioner Dr Mimmie Chi Watts, Smt.Vijaya Vidyanathan, CEO City of Yarra, community leader Mr Jasvinder Sidhu and representatives from the Victoria Police.
Honourable Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria and Minister for finance and multicultural affairs Hon Robin Scott along with other members of parliament sent their best wishes.
Ms Inga Pullich in her chief guest speech commended the Hindu community for their contribution to the multicultural Victoria. A soulful performance by Kunal Mehta provided an interval between the speeches.
The 2017 “Tejaswini – Woman of Substance” award was presented to Dr. Mandvi Bharadwaj, a woman of science with broad experience across industry and academic field. The award recognises the achievement and excellence of a Hindu woman’s contribution to the community. The night also saw another women of substance Ms Manika Jain, Consul General of India – Melbourne being honoured by VMC Commissioner Dr Mimmie Chi Watts.
A Rakhi ceremony was performed and its spiritual symbolism and meaning described by Smt Kirti Baxi of Brahma Kumaries Australia.
Each year a new partner organisation nominates to be the host for the HOTA forum Victoria. Sri Kulwant Joshi the president of Sri Durga arts/cultural and educational centre Inc. accepted the baton of HOTA Forum to host 2018 events. Sri Durga arts/cultural and educational centre Inc. which operates Durga Mandir have extended the invitation for all to participate. Sri Hari Julka secretary in his acceptance speech highlighted the activities of the centre. These activities are to encourage and co-development of religious, cultural and community services value, Undertake charitable welfare work such as food to the needy, clothing and medicine.
The evening’s cultural segment had three cultural performances. The audience were mesmerised by the energetic Bharatnatyam performances of brother and sister combination – Lakshanya and Vasish Vasan, students of Smt Rathika Suresh. The second segment was a traditional Marathi drum ensemble from Janagarjana, a volunteer group that raise funds through their performances to support non-profit charities. With her graceful movements and expressive gestures Lekshmi Sharath presented her Mohinattam dance performance on Lord Shiva as the final item. All of the performances were of the highest quality and a testament to the diverse art forms.
Shri Amit Karanth from IAEF thanked the guests, sponsors, supporters and audiences for their involvement in Raksha Bandhan. This is the first year of HOTA forum Victoria in organising collaborative events and projects successfully with other community organisations.
Once again, representatives from more than fifty organisations and their committed members and supporters of two hundred and fifty have come together to network and collaborate with one another the primary aim of HOTA forum Victoria.